Following Between the Lines
--=Captain's Ready Room=--
As Liis watched Thomas Cassius Blane disappear from view and the doors close behind him, she barked an irate command to the computer.
"Secure the doors."
She spun in repetitious, vicious half-circles, seething like a caged and wounded animal.
She came to a stop before her bookshelf. Both hands found their way to the top shelf, and she allowed the sturdy structure to support her as she listed her weight onto it.
Her knees had gone weak, taking on the consistency of rubber. Her legs simply unable to maintain her standing position a second longer without assistance.
A molten, scarlet rage seized hold of her.
Few experiences or sets of circumstances had ever angered her as completely and to the core as the hideous Yensul affair had.
The vile taste it left behind- an uneasy, nauseating sensation that somehow she had not truly finished cleaning up the entire mess- had haunted her since the last of the Yensuli had left her caring oversight aboard the Federation flagship.
She had worried ever after that the problems exposed and created by that mission had not ended with the resettlement of the widows and orphans; all of them females who had been dumped by the male ruling class of their species onto a hidden, frozen, and desolate L class planet disguised as a moon by stolen technology.
Liis grew even more bitterly disgusted as she tried to fathom that an act she viewed one of courage and bravery- Blane's act of dispatching the Yensuli sappers who were making their second attempt on the lives of the Alchemy's crew as they struggled to survive after crashing- was now the very action that Special Ops was holding over him in order to press him back into their service.
They had twisted the facts of the situation, of this she had no doubt. Omitted key elements to create a darker rendering- one that surely made Blane's just and decisive acts seem criminal.
She wondered if they'd taken the time to investigate deeply enough to discover the hundreds of rock piled graves, so easily distinguishable from the rest of the landscape of Yensul IV.
Graves filled with the bodies of the innocents whose blood stained the hands of not only those three sappers, but every Yensuli male who had participated, either directly or passively, in their slaughter over the previous four centuries of linear time.
She would never forget the look on Blane's face when he'd told her how he'd discovered the gravesite.
It had taken a long time for him to speak of it, and it happened late one night only after they'd finished compiling the crew reports for the Yensul mission to relay to Starfleet.
He'd clutched a drink as he spoke, and spent most of the time staring into it as he broke the truth to her in hushed tones. Zanh had sat there, unable to think of anything appropriate to say in response as her cup of coffee went cold in her hands.
In the end, she'd apologized for not being able to offer some small consolation, and Blane's reply had been as simply heartbreaking as the story, and situation, itself.
"It's all right, Zanh Liis." He had whispered. "What is there to say?"
In the current moment, Liis felt the weakness that had frozen her into place mutate into a rush of dizzying strength.
She picked up a heavy chunk of rose quartz; a gift from Admiral Vox meant to serve as a bookend on one side of her shelf opposite an equal-sized chunk of highly polished geode.
She hefted the quartz with one hand, tossing it into the air and catching it.
Her mind regurgitated venomous images of assorted forms of retribution and destruction that she would love to unleash upon the life and career of the person had done this to her friend Thomas Blane, whoever they may be.
She spun around and drew her arm back.
In an instant, she was poised to launch the crystal as hard as she could, smashing for a certainty anything that was between her and the wall of stained glass behind her desk, as well as the glass itself.
She gasped a deep breath, preparing to unleash an unholy scream as she let go the projectile in an attempt to achieve at least some small release of the feelings that held her savagely captive.
Just as she was about to throw the crystal, Liis stopped her arm's forward motion, allowing it to swing free with the quartz still clutched tightly in her hand.
It dangled there, suspended, for a long time before she was able to dictate the command from her brain to her grasping fingers that she wanted to let it go.
She was trying to build something here, with this new life, aboard the Serendipity. Not destroy. She owed herself better than to give in to blind, impotent rage.
She owed Blane better.
She set the crystal gently down, returning it to its proper place aboard the shelf beside her volume of Tennyson.
Wrung out from the restraint it had taken to abort her first instinctual act of violence, Liis sank to the ground. She crumpled down onto the deck and sat with her legs crossed, her head hanging low.
She realized that perhaps she should be angriest with herself, of all people. She never should have sent Blane to Yensul. She should have risked all possible potential fall out- and gone herself in his place despite anyone's objections.
She recalled with clarity as bright and brilliant as sunrise the moment the decision had been made.
"Do you want to take anyone with you?" She asked, hating the idea of him going alone.
TC thought about it for a moment, there were very few people on board that were qualified for something like this and some of them might have an issue with it on principle. After a moment he shook his head.
“Just me. There is no reason for more then one career to be ruined if things go sour.”
His face turned grim. “Considering the situation this would be best. I would suggest that you have security put together a retrieval team. Just in case.”
"We will put together the retrieval team, but I want you to know one thing for certain before you go, Thomas," Zanh insisted, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"If anyone's career is going to tank over this, it'll be mine, not yours, I promise you that. I would never let one of my officers take the fall for a decision I'm making. And I'm the one making the decision to send you."
"But I volunteered. Suggested, even,"
"I" Zanh repeated evenly, "made the decision."
-=Flashback continued: Days later; after Blane's return from Yensul:=-
"I felt it important to fill you in on the undocumented details because it has been my experience that, experiences like these sometimes do not stay buried."
He stood taller. "I did not want you to be in the dark should this come back around on me."
"On me, you mean. I'm the one who sent you there. I'm the one who, shall we say, skirted standard operating procedures." Zanh replied.
"Therefore, I take responsibility for any actions that you committed on the planet should it ever become an issue. But the fact that you came to me, and told me this?" she paused, "That means more to me than I can articulate, and I won't forget it. You're a good man, and I thank you."
"I appreciate your willingness to protect me, Captain Zanh," Blane was suddenly all formality as he clenched his hands into fists at his side. "But I take responsibility for my own decisions."
"I know you do, and you would." Zanh assured him. "If the day ever comes when that sense of duty and responsibility is warranted, I promise you I will let you stand up and take your punishment, whatever it may be. In other words, Mr. Blane, I am not trying to be your mother and protect you no matter what you do. But in this case, I believe that your use of force was justified and I would say that to anyone who would challenge it."
She was beholden to Blane, in so many ways.
She had promised to defend him. To protect him. Now, she had to find a way to help him.
She realized sadly that it was not only careers that were at stake now. It was Blane's future and possibly his life as well as hers if they were turned over to the Yensuli to stand trial for ending the lives of those soldiers.
Blane was not protecting their badges. He was protecting her life, above all else, just as he'd promised.
There had to be a way out of this. Had to be.
Liis' mind raced furiously as she tried to turn the random ravings into a useful plan of action.
Whoever was blackmailing him with this did not deserve to call themselves a Starfleet Officer.
Whoever did this to him should be made to answer for it.
Something within her clicked, and hatred and anger turned to resolve and determination.
Who ever was holding the lever to the gallows that they'd forced Blane to stand upon, was of Special Ops.
That meant that they also had a checkered history.
Anyone could be made to stumble based on past indiscretions.
It was now Zanh's purpose that the person controlling Blane by remote was not only going to trip, but they were going to be the one justly dangling from the noose when all was said and done.
Captain Zanh Liis
USS Serendipity NCC-2012